It’s been a tradition in my family to go camping in Panamint Valley every New Year. For the last few years I haven’t gone, but I miss it.
Panamint Valley is a special place. There are endless old roads to explore with a four wheel drive vehicle, or on foot. My dad would take us into the old mines in the nearby canyons to find rocks. We used to drive up into one particular canyon and camp near a dilapidated old ranch. It was always really creepy and we later found out the creepiness wasn’t just in our heads. It turned out to be where Charles Manson was hiding out when he was finally arrested!
We’ve had countless friends who are lured in by our exciting stories of this annual trip, but very few are willing to go back a second year. The weather is usually harsh, there are no bathrooms, no water, and it’s a pretty barren desert. You’ve got to get past all that in order to appreciate the desert’s extreme beauty.
I first met Mai-yan on a New Year’s trip to Panamint Valley. I knew we’d be friends when she sat inside my tent with me sewing it up when the wind literally blew a hole through the seam. It was a brand new tent, too!
Sadly, I won’t be going again this year. We’ve got friends and family coming into town so we’ll be spending the New Year with them. I’m very much looking forward to their visit, but part of me will always wish I were sitting in the freezing cold desert, next to a roaring campfire, and eating a piping hot bowl of black eyed peas, greens and cornbread.
Eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring good luck in the coming year. It’s a Southern tradition, and everyone I know who follows this tradition makes a pot of black eyed peas flavored with a ham hock. I make mine without the ham, so to make up for that missing flavor, I turn to a rich tomato base and spices. I make it at home and freeze it, but if you use fresh or frozen peas, you could easily make this at camp. This Black Eyed Pea recipe has now become the go-to New Years recipe in my family. Even my Southern parents love it.
An important ingredient in this recipe is the tomato paste. I discovered tomato powder this year at Savory Spice Shop in Colorado. I love it because the flavor is fantastic and you don’t have to open a whole can of tomato paste when all you need is one tablespoon. Just mix the tomato powder with a little water and you’re good to go.
New Year's Day Black Eyed Peas
Prep Time / Cook Time/
Activity GuideCar Camping
- 1 1/2 cups dried black eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste or enough tomato powder and water to make 1 tablespoon
- 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- a big handful of cilantro, chopped
- Cutting board
- Large pot
- Cover the peas by 2 inches of water and soak them overnight. If you’re short on time, you can skip the soaking step, but they may take longer to cook.
- Drain the peas and add about 4 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the peas are cooked through.
- Heat the oil in a separate large skillet and cook the onion until the edges just turn golden. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stirring to break up the tomato paste, and cook another minute. Stir in the tomatoes (with their juices), salt, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and pepper. Cook for a few minutes more, until the oil starts to separate from the tomatoes.
- Add the tomato mixture to the peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Mix in the chopped cilantro.